AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Wednesday, the Texas Oil and Gas Association hosted the third biennial Texas Energy Day at the Capitol. The event, which was virtual for the first time due to the pandemic, garnered extra attention after February’s energy crisis.
Top players and supporters in the oil and gas industry, including Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan and Governor Greg Abbott, reassured Texas energy is performing above par.
Todd Staples, TXOGA president, said the United States has reached a 30-year low in energy-related carbon emissions. The association touts this and other statistics as proof of the recent progress fossil fuels have made during the virtual event.
“Emissions are down so much, it is the equivalent of having removed 88 million vehicles from the roads in Texas,” Gov. Abbott added.
But fossil fuels were the only type of energy producers included in their discussion. Luke Metzger from Environment Texas said polluting less doesn’t solve the problem.
“This is an inherently dirty form of energy,” Metzger said. “And by burning those fossil fuels, you know, you’re putting pollution into the air that, you know, makes people sick.”
Environment Texas is an advocacy group for renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. Metzger said making renewable energy more widespread could save money and the planet.
“We have wind and solar to thank both for lower electric bills, but also for cleaner air in our cities,” Metzger said. “So, renewables are affordable today, and in many cases cheaper than fossil fuels. Electric Car prices have dropped dramatically in the last decade.”
But Phelan says renewable energy is not the cost-effective choice right now.
“How do you expect someone to have an electric car when that retails at $24,000, when they can barely afford a $4,000 resale third hand automobile?” Phelan said.
One reason Republicans maintain their support for oil and gas is because the industry contributes greatly to Texas’ infrastructure and education funds.
“Be careful what you’re asking for, because like you just said, okay, now how do you want to pay for education, how you want to pay, you want to pay for this asphalt, alright, this has got to come from somewhere,” Phelan said.
Renewable energy advocates hope state leaders will soon begin to make more opportunities for clean energy because of one of the governor’s other top priorities: attracting businesses to Texas.
“As more and more global companies are seeing the writing on the wall and seeing that absolute urgency of getting off of fossil fuels,” Metzger said. “Texas political leadership, as they’re courting those businesses to move here and want Texas to remain relevant in a global economy, will start making the investments necessary to move to Texas.”
For now though, Abbott promised once again Wednesday to protect the jobs in the oil and gas industry from any federal mandate by the Biden Administration.
“The world has changed with regard to the energy sector in Texas, and across the United States, it’s changed because of a new administration that’s seeking to impose these green New Deal policies, green New Deal policies that threaten fossil fuel production in the state of Texas like what we are accustomed to,” Abbott said. “But something else that we are accustomed to is fighting back and protecting the fossil fuel industry in Texas.”